The Lost City looks to take the number one spot from The Batman! I’m rooting for it!
Happy Oscars Weekend Everybody!! Now it’s time for a post where I barely talk about the Oscars, how fun! In all seriousness, given the state moviegoing, the pandemic, and a variety of other factors, there are been surprisingly little to talk about in the realm of Oscar players and box office. Usually, in the run-up to Oscar night, movies in contention are generally pushed in wider release to capitalize on their buzz and prep for any potentially lucrative coming weekends should they win any awards. In spite of this, there has actually been little activity from Oscar players at the box office, with many having pretty much already petered out in runs that were not particularly notable to begin with. I think it says something that of the film’s considered frontrunners for Best Picture, two are streaming releases (CODA from AppleTV+ and The Power of the Dog from Netflix), one was a box office flop (West Side Story), and one, while it was never likely to have been a huge hit, really didn’t register with mainstream audiences (Belfast). While box office performance is by no means the end-all-be-all determinate for quality and prestige in a film, even films with very limited runs can tell us a lot about their reception based on their box office. Of the ten films nominated for Best Picture, Dune is the only one to have cracked $100 million domestically (and $400 million worldwide for that matter), and consequently has arguably sustained the most amount of conversation from audiences throughout the year (though, admittedly, it is hugely helped in this department by the fact that is currently has a sequel in pre-production for a 2023 release). Meanwhile, most of the other movies in the Best Picture line-up did generate conversation, but for much briefer periods of time. To be fair, several of them were released towards the end of the year (some not even to the general public) but, perhaps more importantly, played more like flashes in the pan rather than genuine interest. All in all, the state of the Best Picture race speaks to the Academy’s disconnect with general audiences, and frankly even critics, in terms of what they value on film. That’s not a criticism, the Academy is absolutely allowed to highlight whatever kinds of film they want to highlight, but it does further speak to one inevitable truth: general audiences really don’t care all that much about the Oscars, at least not anymore.
Consequently, that might work in the favor of theatrical exhibitors this weekend as we see more commercial holdovers from last weekend get joined by exciting, and thoroughly un-Oscar-y titles including The Lost City(!!!), RRR, and Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. Starting off with The Lost City, I cannot fully express how excited I’ve been for this film since it was first announced (though I’ve mentioned it in numerous posts over the past few weeks, so maybe you have some idea). Starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum (and featuring a Brad Pitt cameo!), the film is a throwback of sorts to an older school of filmmaking where studios relied not on existing properties to entice audiences into theaters, but rather the draw of big-name actors doing what they do best (in this case, Sandra Bullock doing broad physical comedy) paired with a concept for a film that allows them to do exactly that. Here, Bullock plays a reclusive romance novelist with an interest in archaeology and ancient languages who gets kidnapped by a billionaire and must escape the jungle alongside her books’ cover model (Tatum) and, maybe, finding an ancient lost city in the process. As you can imagine, hilarity and hijinks ensue. This is the kind of pitch that you rarely see get made into a film today, let alone by a major studio like Paramount. Most of the time, pitches like this take the form of quirky indies from smaller distributors (like the aforementioned Everything, Everywhere, All At Once from A24; more on that later), or exciting flashes of experimentation from studios that, for one reason or another, end up getting sold to streaming services or release direct-to-DVD/On-Demand (like that of the phenomenally bonkers and utterly hilarious Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar). I’m convinced only the star power of Sandra Bullock, who along with Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, and Kevin Hart, is one of the last truly bankable movie stars out there who truly puts butts in seats, is what got Paramount to give this movie a theatrical release as well as roll out the marketing red carpet as they have. With fabulously fun trailers and a premiere at the SXSW Film Festival (where it received glowing reviews and emerged with a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes; it now sits at 76% but its still good!), The Lost City is primed and ready to make a grand entrance, and by the looks of things, it just might.
Debuting in Thursday night previews with $2.5 million, The Lost City was still tracking relatively well up to this week with a projected $20-30+ million which, given that this film is not based on an existing property, is pretty damn good. Those estimates have risen throughout the week, with most pundits saying that the film would take in at least $25+ million, and thanks to these preview numbers, those estimates have just risen. $2.5 million is on par with the $2.2 million in previews that Free Guy, another non-franchise (for now) film starring an actor (Ryan Reynolds) doing what they do best (as he would say, playing “God’s Favorite Idiot”), which itself opening to $28 million, which suggest that The Lost City can likely open on par if not slightly better with at least $30 million. Bullock herself is something of an anomaly as she has taken breaks in the past few years with long stretches of time going by where she doesn’t have a film released, yet she manages to still open movies big whenever she returns (absence, to be fair, does make the heart grow fonder). After three years away from screen following the box office flop of Our Brand is Crisis, Bullock returned to screens in Ocean’s 8 which she helped propel to a $41 million opening, the highest for an Ocean’s film ever (unadjusted for inflation), showing just how much of a draw she is. Even on streaming with Netflix, where she’s been making movies for a while now, Bullock has been able to pull in incredible viewership with her two films for the service, Bird Box and The Unforgivable, both climbed up to become some of the most-watched films on the service, further emphasizing Bullock’s appeal. Still, there is one more factor that I feel is this movie’s secret weapon: Channing Tatum.
Originally, when putting the package together, Paramount was looking to cast Bullock alongside Ryan Reynolds as the male lead, specifically to evoke nostalgia for the duo’s hit comedy The Proposal and help bolster the film’s box office appeal. Reynold’s, unfortunately, had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and the studio’s desire to move into production quickly, but they found a replacement in one Channing Tatum, and if you’ve paid attention to the box office for the past few weeks, you’d know that he is a perfect choice. Not only is Channing Tatum very funny, arguably doing his best work as comedic/romantic lead, but he also has happened to star in a recent film by the name of Dog, perhaps you’ve heard of it? I know you have, especially because it has become a surprising box office success since its release five weekends ago alongside Uncharted. Thanks in no small part to Tatum’s appeal with women, the film was successfully able to counterprogram Uncharted, a heavily male-skewing film, allowing it to overperform with a nearly $15 million debut and leg out (so far) to $55 million domestically. Uncharted, given its treasuring hunting/adventure film nature would likely pose the strongest competition to The Lost City since their settings are relatively similar. However, The Lost City‘s more overtly comedic nature as well as is heavily boosted female thanks to Bullock and Tatum in the leads will likely allow it to successfully counterprogram Uncharted, as well as the also heavily male-centric The Batman in its fourth weekend of release. The later film is admittedly holding pretty well, but The Lost City is such a different and fresher animal that I am inclined to believe it will still rake in cash. I’m personally predicting a $28 million opening, which would put it ahead of The Batman, quite the feather in Bullock’s, Tatum’s, and Paramount’s cap.
As for second place, sure enough, the likely entry will be The Batman, which I am personally predicting to have about a -40% drop for a gross of $22 million. That’s still pretty healthy, and the film has already passed $300 million domestic, a feat no other film outside of Spider-Man: No Way Home has been able to accomplish since the start of the pandemic. Still, pundits are starting to worry about the film’s long-term prospects, and with good reason. Its international haul is beginning to slow down noticeably (with a DOA $11.4 million opening in China) and, much to the chagrin of many (which is slightly annoying since most other studios are doing the same thing with their features yet aren’t getting lambasted for it), the film will be debuting on HBO Max at no extra cost after a 45-Day exclusive theatrical window (officially on April 19th) which many feel could eat into its box office grosses and prevent it from reaching the hallowed $1 Billion dollar mark worldwide. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
In third place, we have a likely unexpected newcomer, that being Indian Film release, RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt). Directed by Baahubali duology director, S. S. Rajamouli, the film, telling the story of two fiction revolutionaries in India fighting against the British Raj and Nizam to Hyderabad, reportingly took in $4.4 million in $4.4 million in Thursday night previews and is gunning for a $12-15 million opening this weekend. This doesn’t surprise me at all given that Rajamouli did direct Baahubali, a film that I saw playing at my local theater in no less than four languages when I lived in Gainesville (northern-central Florida), showing just how broad the appeal for Indian film is. Apparently, RRR was supposed to be released in 2020 but was pushed back for COVID reasons. Clearly, that has not stopped it as it has the potential to break records for an Indian film debuting in the US. It will be hard to cover the film since many outlets don’t get information on these kinds o films until much later in the day, but given the recent strong showing of Gangubai Kathiawadi (whose star Alia Bhatt just landed a role in a highly anticipated Netflix spy flick, Heart of Stone, alongside Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan) and last weekend with The Kashmir Files, I have no doubt that RRR will be making quite the splash.
After that, it’s primarily holdovers, with Uncharted still going strong and likely dropping just -20% for a gross of $6.24 million in fourth place, which would take it past the $130 million mark at the domestic box office. Fifth place is currently looking to go to last weekend’s break hit anime film (another example of foreign films that are absolutely thriving at the box office in this day and age), Jujutsu Kaisen 0. I’d personally never heard of this anime before (it reported follows a boy who attends a sorcerer’s school and seeks help dealing this the spirit of his childhood sweetheart, who died tragically but latched on to him and takes the form of a violent spirit; mighty compelling!) nor was I aware that the film was being released last weekend. Still, it’s great to see it thriving as it not only brings more diversity to the box office top ten in terms of types of movies we see there but also represents the first successful release from Funimation and Crunchyroll, two of the top anime purveyors in America which recently unified under the same corporate umbrella. The only issue here is trying to predict just how well it will hold in its second weekend. As we’ve observed numerous times before, anime films tend to open quite well but then tend to drop off precipitously in their second weekend given that most everyone who was going to see the film in theaters usually shows up on opening night. Comparing the film to Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train, My Hero Academia World Heroes Mission, and even Dragon Ball Super: Broly, the general rate of drop off is frequently in the lower -70%s. I’m personally predicting a drop of -74% (in line with Mugen Train), which would have it taking in a still strong $4.68 million. No matter what, the film is still very likely to stay in the upper half of the top ten.
As for the bottom half, it will generally be business as usual. Dog may suffer a slightly larger than usual drop given that it will be competing with another Channing Tatum film, but I doubt it will be more than -25% which put it in sixth place with a gross of about $3 million. No Way Home continues to chug along 14 weeks into its run and is likely to drop only -22% for a gross of $2.45 million in seventh place which would pull it past the $800 million mark domestics. Astounding!! X meanwhile is the only big wildcard in the top ten as it is an A24 horror film, a breed of movie that has shown strength in the past with the likes of Hereditary and Midsommar (both from Ari Aster). However, for all the hype it got at SXSW, X only managed a $4.4 million opening last weekend, and doesn’t seem to really have any noteworthy and/or controversial angles, like the previous two films mentioned, to maintain audience interest. I see this one dropping around -50% for a gross of $2.2 million in eighth place, but who knows? Maybe it will surprise. Rounding out the top ten will likely be stalwarts, the very long-legged Sing 2 in ninth place with a likely drop of -10% for a gross of $1.3 million, and Death on the Nile taking its final bow in tenth place with a potential -35% drop for a gross of $1.07 million.
Finishing off with the specialty market, the main movie to keep your eyes on is that of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. People would bemoan the lack of creativity in Hollywood these days, but this film is a testament to the idea that individualistic artistic visions still exist. Directed by filmmaking duo “The Daniels” (the team behind the wildly unconventional Swiss Army Man, which saw Paul Dano as a man marooned on an island contemplating suicide, only to be saved by the corpse of a surprisingly flatulent Daniel Radcliffe, which shows itself to numerous skills and capabilities…..yes, you read that correctly) comes the story of Evelyn Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh in what can only be one of the most of-center roles of her career) a Chinese immigrant who, in the midst of an audit, finds herself thrust into an infinite number of parallel universes where she must harness all of her skills across the multiverse to fend off a malevolent force. The second A24 release in a row after X last weekend, the most famous indie studio of modern times clearly has high hopes for this film as they made the incredibly ballsy film to release the first trailer for this little multiversal movie in front of the mega-multiverse movie No Way Home. Reviews out of SXSW are glowing but we’ll have to see if any of it translates into a strong per-theater-average as the film debuts in limited release this weekend.